Don’t worry if you haven’t heard of kleicha, Iraqi date cookies: think of them as a bit like fig Newtons but with a wonderfully aromatic undertone. They’re addictively good!
If you’re a regular here, you might remember that I participated in a couple of virtual cookie exchanges last year, including an international cookie exchange where I shared brunkager, Danish Christmas cookies. Well, this year we are doing it again and I am moving to another part of the world with these kleicha, Iraqi date cookies. I am so glad I did, as these are truly delicious. Think of them a bit like fig Newtons/fig rolls but filled with date that’s infused with cardamon.
When would you eat kleicha/ Iraqi date cookies?
Kleicha are about the most popular Iraqi date cookies. While they are typically eaten for Eid, the end of Ramadan, which is not this time of year, they are also eaten for a range of celebrations. If you’re getting the family together whether it’s for a wedding, birthday, or whatever else, you’ll probably have kleicha. And so it seemed fitting after all to share them at a time of year when so many gather with family and friends.
Personally I chose them because I love the flavors used in Middle Eastern dishes. There are lots of dates, nuts and fragrant spices, all of which I enjoy. They all fit particularly well in cookies and desserts, too. Then, as I was looking at different types of cookies, I saw a number needed special moulds which I didn’t have. While kleicha can be made with a mould, they can also be rolled as I have here. Between that and the dates and cardamon in them, I was sold.
While there is hardly any sugar in these thanks to the naturally sweet date filling, the dough is typically not all that great on the healthy scale. Traditionally, kleicha are made with white flour and a lot of butter, but I decided to try to make them that bit healthier. I instead used wholewheat pastry flour and coconut oil. I also reduced the coconut oil compared to the typical amount of butter and I think they still work really well.
Traditionally the dough has nigella seeds in it and often mahlab, giving nice bursts of color and flavor. However I didn’t have either so I used a combination of cumin and cardamon. I think the flavor still works well and they are obviously easier ingredients to find.
Tips for making Iraqi date cookies
While these are not that hard to make, there are a couple things to note when you make them (some are things I learnt from my mistakes!):
- make sure your date filling is a jam-like consistency so you can spread it easily;
- if you let the dough rise for more than 30min (as I did), it will keep rising and so you’ll get thicker cookies. That’s not necessarily bad, just be aware;
- roll the dough out on parchment or cling film/wrap so you can use this to help you roll it up. If you don’t, I think it will be very tricky to pick up evenly;
- dab the filling in small lumps so you can then spread from there rather than putting one big lump in the middle and expecting to spread it;
- cut slices with a serrated knife to try to avoid squashing it together too much. Wipe the knife between cuts to take off the excess date mixture;
- finally, either cut them thicker, approx 1in/2.5cm thick and stand them up on the tray to bake or cut them a bit thinner and lay them flat. I tried to stand up some thinner ones and they just fell over as they cooked.
Don’t let these points put you off, these Iraqi date cookies are not difficult to make and they are so tasty, they’re really worth the little bit of effort to make them. Traditionally they would be made in large batches but I have made a relatively small quantity here more for typical at-home consumption. Though that said, these cookies went pretty quickly in our house, and we’re not huge cookie people. Give them a try, and enjoy the wonderfully aromatic, sweet date filling wrapped in a tasty dough for yourself.
These unusual cookies are made special by the aromatic cardamon-date filling - so good!
- 1 1/2 cups whole wheat pastry flour 180g
- 1/4 tsp salt
- 1/4 tsp ground cumin
- 1/4 tsp ground cardamon (see notes below)
- 1/2 cup milk 120ml, warmed
- 1/2 tsp sugar
- 1 tsp dried instant yeast
- 6 tbsp coconut oil , melted
- 1 cup dried dates 140g (weight without stones, pieces is fine)
- 1/2 tsp ground cardamon
- 1/2 tsp ground fennel seeds
- 1/2 tbsp coconut oil
- 3 tbsp water (approx)
Mix together the flour, salt, cumin and cardamon. Add the sugar and yeast to the warm milk, stir then leave it around 5 minutes to activate.
After the 5min, add the milk mixture along with the melted coconut oil to the flour mixture. Stir well then tip onto a surface and knead a couple minutes. It will feel a little greasy, don't worry. Put the dough in a bowl, cover and leave to rise in a draught-free place for approx 30min.
Meanwhile, make the filling. Put the dates, cardamon, fennel seeds and coconut oil in a small pan and warm over a medium-low heat until the dates soften and the mixture starts to stick together as a bit of a ball. Add some water to thin it to a jam-like consistency, a tablespoon at a time as it will depend on how soft he dates were.
Preheat the oven to 350F/175C.
Lay a layer of cling wrap/film or parchment on your work surface and line a baking sheet with a cookie sheet or parchment.
Tip the dough onto the lined work surface and roll the dough into a rectangle, around 1 1/2 times as long as it is wide and approx 1/4in/6mm thick. Dab the date filling onto the top and spread all over the dough leaving a strip without any on the two shorter ends.
Lifting up the cling wrap/film or parchment to help you, roll from one of the short ends and form a roll. Finish by having the other end on the bottom so it seals together.
Using a serrated knife, carefully cut the roll into slices, either approx 1in/2,5cm thick or thinner, as you prefer. Carefully transfer the slices to the baking sheet, standing on end if thicker, squashing slightly, or else laying flat if thinner.
Bake for approx 15min until lightly brown. Delicious served warm from the oven but also good cold.
If you don't have ground cardamon, use about twice the volume of whole pods. Crush them slightly with a pestle and mortar then squeeze the seeds from the pods and discard the pods. Crush the seeds to a powder.
Try these other international cookies:
Welcome to the second annual International Cookie Exchange hosted by Sarah from Curious Cuisiniere.
You can follow along on Twitter with the hashtag #IntnlCookies, and you can find these great recipes and more cookies from around the world on the International Cookie Exchange Pinterest Board.
- From France: Palatable Pastime – Sablés
- From Germany: Cindy’s Recipes and Writing – Lebkuchen (Spiced Molasses Cookies)
- From Greece: Cooking the Globe – Kourabiedes
- From India: Love Is In My Tummy – Kal Kal
- From Iraq: Caroline’s Cooking – Kleicha (Iraqi Date Cookies)
- From Italy: An Italian In My Kitchen – Cranberry Almond Biscotti
- From Italy: Culinary Adventures with Camilla – Ricciarelli
- From Poland: A Day in the Life on the Farm – Rogaliki
- From Scotland: The Redhead Baker – Cranberry Orange Shortbread
- From Serbia: Curious Cuisiniere – Vanilice (Little Filled Vanilla Cookies)
- From Switzerland: Tara’s Multicultural Table – Basler Brunsli (Swiss Chocolate Almond Cookies)
- From Venezuela: Five Senses Palate – Coquitos
Welcome to the 12 Days of Cookies, hosted by Family Around the Table and Cooking With Carlee. We will be filling the season with all kinds of delicious cookies. Be sure to check out some of the recipes below or search #ChristmasCookies. We also have a 12 Days of Cookies Pinterest board where you can see all of the goodness! May your holidays be sweet!
Devil’s Food Mini Chip Cookies from Family Around the Table
French Sables from Palatable Pastime
Kleicha (Iraqi Date Cookies) from Caroline’s Cooking
Super Duper Chewy Milk Chocolate M&M Cookies from Cooking With Carlee
Pistachio and Apricot Oatmeal Cookies from A Kitchen Hoor’s Adventures
Rogaliki from A Day in the Life on The Farm
Salted Caramel Thumbprints from Jolene’s Recipe Journal